Recently, in my Developmental English class, I was teaching my students about using the possessive. I told them that in order to make a word possessive they should do this: for all singular words, form the possessive by adding an apostrophe plus an ‘s.’ For any plural word that does not end with an ‘s,’ also add an apostrophe plus an ‘s.’ For plural words that do end with an ‘s,’ add an apostrophe only.
I told them that a simple way to determine whether to add the ‘s’ is to try to pronounce the word. The possessive of the singular word ‘bus,’ for example, is pronounced bus’s (it just sounds right), while the possessive of the plural word ‘books’ sounds wrong with the extra ‘s’: books’s (again–pronounce it–it definitely sounds wrong).
Then I woke up this morning and listened to CNBC’s Squawk Box.
Joe Kernan and Andrew Ross Sorkin were talking about a company called Netflix. They were discussing Netflix’s quarterly earnings. Andrew Ross Sorkin kept saying “Netflix’s earnings are this, Netflix’s earnings were that.” Until it finally sunk in. Netflix is a singular word but, at least to me, adding that extra ‘s’ in the possessive definitely sounded wrong. Netflix is a singular word because it represents the entire company as a whole. The word is a “special spelling” of the two words “net” and “flicks.” “Flicks” is a plural word like “movies.” So the name of the company derives from “NetFlix”–“Net Movies”–“Internet Movies.”
Making the possessive of “Internet Movies” would be easy. Add an apostrophe only. Because “movies’ is plural, and “Internet movies’s” sounds weird.
This seems to me to be a case where the possessive works one way on the page and a totally different way in your ear. (There are many other examples. “Dropbox” comes to mind. “Dropbox’s earnings…” This look right on the page, but, at least to my ear, it sounds really weird.)
Open question: Are there other examples of a possessive looking right on the page, but sounding totally wrong to the ear?